Digital Media & Developing Minds

Co-sponsored by Children and Screens with Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory, the second Digital Media and Developing Minds national interdisciplinary conference brought together scientists and researchers in the fields of neuroscience, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, communications, education, public health, epidemiology and others to:

  • Continue a dialogue between medical researchers and those in the social sciences field who study media effects.

  • Learn and exchange ideas on the cognitive, mental, physical and social impacts of digital media on youth, families, culture, and learning.

  • Identify and report on state-of-the-art empirical research on the impact of digital media on developing minds (i.e. toddlers, children, and adolescents).

  • Put to use new medically-based research techniques to use studying the potential impact of media use on children’s developing minds.

  • Meet and network with funders, educators, and industry leaders.

  • Qualify to submit proposals for seed funding for collaborative, interdisciplinary research immediately following the conference.

Learn more at:

Graphic Recording by Peter Durand


Chimps & Humans & DNA - What makes us human?


From the May 2009 Scientific American Magazine:

Comparisons of the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are revealing those rare stretches of DNA that are ours alone

The 1 percent difference: Humans are distinct from chimpanzees in a number of important respects, despite sharing nearly 99 percent of their DNA. New analyses are revealing which parts of the genome set our species apart. continue reading

Also check out:


12 Brain-Mind Principles - Geoffrey & Renata Caine

From Diane Durand:

How do we learn? How do we make connections? T

hese are questions I have wondered for many years. I spent the early part of my career trying to understand and enhance how adults learn as individuals and groups. Now I am raising two children ages one and five. The five-year-old has made incredible connections in her brain between colors, science, play, and reading.

Now as I work with a new little one, I am trying to remember: "What did I do with her older sister to help her learn?"

Life and learning is incredible. 

I came across the model above, which I drew several years ago from some material Peter had brought back from a conference. At this particular conference he had the pleasure to meet Geoffrey and Renata Caine authors of 12 Mind/Brain Principles. 

I loved the principles right away.  I then created the image above to help me. (I learn best with a pen in hand.)

Brainpower May Lie in Complexity of Synapses

We always if we were smarter than chimps (or at least baboons).
Here is clinical proof as to why the human brain has a better handle on complexity.

This article profiles a whole new dimension of evolutionary complexity has now emerged from a cross-species study led by Dr. Seth Grant at the Sanger Institute in England.

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Evolution’s recipe for making a brain more complex has long seemed simple enough. Just increase the number of nerve cells, or neurons, and the interconnections between them. A human brain, for instance, is three times the volume of a chimpanzee’s.

The computing capabilities of the human brain may lie not so much in its neuronal network as in the complex calculations that its synapses perform, Dr. Grant said. Vertebrate synapses have about 1,000 different proteins, assembled into 13 molecular machines, one of which is built from 183 different proteins.

These synapses are not standard throughout the brain, Dr. Grant’s group has found; each region uses different combinations of the 1,000 proteins to fashion its own custom-made synapses.

Each synapse can presumably make sophisticated calculations based on messages reaching it from other neurons. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, interconnected at 100 trillion synapses.

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Monkey Mind: Fast Kids, Slow Brain Growth & ADHD

PHOTO: Sita Magnuson

My friend David Owens, a brilliant professor, product innovator and currently CEO for Griffin Technology Inc., calls it "monkey mind". So do the practitioners of Buddhism (see Taming the Monkey Mind by Cheng Wei-an). The Monkey Mind Manual aptly describes the metaphor and dedicates an entire blog to the subject:
Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term that vividly describes the way our minds stay busy, keeping us away from inner peace and true happiness. I think it is the antithesis of mindfulness. At times I convince myself that my monkey is more agitated and on worse behavior than many: it usually jumps to conclusions, has wild swings of mood, and growls too frequently. Really, though, I'm not alone. Our monkeys are all prone to such behavior.
Monkey Mind is, of course, endemic to human beings of all chemical make-ups. However, it is a serious challenge to kids who brim with the energy and distraction of ADHD--not to mention their parents, teachers, siblings and police officers! Of course, some of us who like the way we operate wear the label as a badge of honor. (Sort of like John Belushi's character, in Animal House who wears a food-stained sweatshirt that simply reads: COLLEGE.)

Those of us with diagnosed (medically or culturally) as living with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Hyperkinetic Disorder as officially known in the UK, are generally considered to be dealing with a developmental disorder, largely neurological in nature, affecting about 5% of the world's population. Researcher have mapped the disorder to other affects on the brain's development.

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Children and teenagers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have developmental delays of up to three years in some regions of the brain, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

"The sequence in which different parts of the brain matured in the kids with ADHD was exactly the same as in healthy kids. It's just that everything was delayed by a couple of years," said Dr. Philip Shaw National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health.

Shaw said the delays are most pronounced in regions of the brain that are important for controlling thought, attention and planning.

ADHD is a condition suffered by about 2 million U.S. children that often becomes apparent in preschool and early school years. Children with ADHD have a tougher time controlling their behavior and paying attention.

The finding was based on imaging studies involving 223 children and teens with ADHD and 223 without the disorder.

"Benefits & Pitfalls of Metaphors & Syntopical Readings" or "Why We Have a Library"

Books sure are pretty.

And, they make people look smart.

But the books are a vital part of our tool set for helping teams think faster, better and more creativelier [spell check did NOT like that word!].

Here are some resources giving the background of how other organizations use metaphorical reading, research outside their subject areas, and their own libraries as tools and methods for innovation in business.

Syntopical Reading… Intelligent Dialog
Mortimor Adler developed the term and method called Syntopical Reading in How To Read A Book [rbtfBook]. The idea is to read many books at the same time - on a given subject - and aggressively dialoging with the authors. First, you see things this way that otherwise would not be revealed. In addition, it is possible to read a set of books, that together, bring information and insight to a subject that none of them, singularly, cover. by Matt Taylor

The Syntopicon as an Instrument of Liberal Education
The Syntopicon serves the end of liberal education to the extent that it facilitates the reading of the great books and, beyond that, the study and teaching of them. To make the nature of this educational contribution clear, it is necessary to distinguish between the integral and the syntopical reading of great books. by Mortimer Adler. Ph.D.

The Fruitful Flaws of Strategy Metaphors
Harvard Business Review | It’s tempting to draw business lessons from other disciplines—warfare, biology, music. But most managers do it badly. Instead of being seduced by the similarities between business and another field, you need to look for places where the metaphor breaks down. by Tihamér von Ghyczy

Unearth Growth by Digging in the Dirt
Fast Company | Everything you need to know about innovation is growing (and dying) in a garden near you. So forget balanced scorecards, six sigma and SWOT analysis and read this instead. by Richard Watson

Web Design on the Brain

Regardless of the debate on evolution reverberating still in America, the fact is, our brains were built for one purpose--survival in the natural world.

Have a look at this picture.. Where are the lions?

The brain is designed to take in massive amounts of information, concentrate on details, discriminate what is important, focus on a goal, design a plan and send out commands for action.

I was pleased to read that even in the eyeball-and-index-finger world of the web, that the same mental process is still taking place! More to the point--designers need to understand how the brain works in order to build navigation systems and information hierarchies that enable (rather than frustrate) our paleolithic instinct to hunter and gather.

According to Ben Hunt of Scratchmedia, a small consulting business based in the UK: "One way to think about designing for web users is to consider what the brain is good at, and to design to take the best advantage of those strengths."

From a post titled The Brain's Strengths on the blog, Web Design from Scratch:

Matching shapes

The minds of higher order animals are highly skilled at recognising things by their shape, or outline. We have an amazing ability to associate shapes with their meanings very quickly. This can be helpful for spotting your quarry when hunting in thick vegetation or in poor light. We're more likely to use this skill when associating the shape of an icon with 'I can make a printed version of this page if I move my mouse and click on that', or to decide to ignore a banner ad based on its shape.

Seeing patterns

Our brains are great at spotting associations between objects, based on similarities, alignment and grouping. This is helpful for working out where to move in order to separate an animal from its herd, or for telling which strangers belong to which tribes. Today, we're more likely to use this ability to find the navigation on a new site, or to tell at a glance how many unopened emails we have.

Focusing on the important; ignoring the unimportant

When we match shapes and patterns, we quickly sort what to focus on from what to ignore. This is a talent we share with all natural predators. If the brain loses its ability to filter out noise, we go mad. We use this skill every time we look at a web page, by scanning for clues that help us get nearer our goal.

High-speed problem solving

When faced with new problems, we're great at working out new ways of addressing them, even by abstracting patterns that have worked for different problems. Our minds are tuned for computing available information, and quickly choosing a most likely solution. (This capacity is one of the things that distinguishes the intelligence of apes from monkeys.)

Orangutans Play Video Games

From via Associated Press:

Four-year-old Bernas isn't the computer wizard his mom is, but he's learning. Just the other day he used his lips and feet to play a game on the touch-screen monitor as his mom, Madu, swung from vines and climbed trees. The two Sumatran orangutans at Zoo Atlanta are playing computer games while researchers study the cognitive skills of the orange and brown primates.

The best part? Zoo visitors get to watch their every move.

The orangutans use a touch screen built into a tree-like structure that blend in with their zoo habitat. Visitors watch from a video monitor in front of the exhibit.

The computer games, which volunteers from IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) spent nearly 500 hours developing, test the animals' memory, reasoning and learning, spitting out sheets of data for researchers at the zoo and Kyle Frantz's team at Atlanta's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a partner in the project.